Sharing a Story is Not Casting a Stone.

This is a really quick blog/brain dump about sharing and reacting.

I realize the power of sharing your story. I have a story to tell you all and I’ve done an okay job so far, but I definitely need to keep going, and to go deeper.  I’m learning more about myself all the time. We all are, and I do believe that when we share openly and honestly, we all benefit.

hs-and-now

I shared this photo in January and happened to reply to a comment. My friend since Kindergarten remarked that I look “lighter” now in spirit. True. I commented that she’s correct, I was very depressed and angry at that time in my life. True. My mom, over a month later replied that she and dad did the best they could. She replied in a way that showed she was very hurt.

The last thing I ever wanted to do in the sharing of my feelings and my reality at that time was to upset anyone.  But, I did. I got sad about it and then it made me mad. I don’t want to have to censor myself when I tell the story of my own life.

I was depressed as a teenager. My parents had nothing to do with it. I didn’t know I was depressed. They didn’t know I was depressed. Now, with the wisdom of therapy and time, I see my depression as it developed throughout my life.

I need to tell my story for myself and for anyone who relatesto me. But I can’t be held back by worrying about hurting someone’s feelings.  It’s a hard one to navigate for me.

Tempering My Steel

Navigating people’s questions about some of my personal issues has always been difficult for me. It’s not that I’m hiding anything, and I’m not embarrassed, but properly communicating something that has brutally defined me as an adult is daunting. A few words in conversation are never enough. I have written this to help me better explain my experience to other people. I’m not looking for advice and I’m not in the market for pity. All I want is some is to explain myself and have it be heard.

I can't even tell you how much this motto has gotten me through each day.

I can’t even tell you how much this motto has gotten me through each day.

I’m now of the age where most of my friends have their families completed or well underway.  I’m 40.  I’m at the bookend of my fertility.  My door is closing.  But it was never really open for me and I don’t think anyone really understands that.  I have always felt fundamentally broken.  My wide hips have never been childbearing.  My C cups, which they say are meant to feed my child, were only ever used to get attention from others.  Some call me selfish; some pity my husband, my parents and me. For all my wonderful qualities, I am still a genetic dead end.

In a lot of ways I haven’t felt right since the Fall of 1993. I was 17 and my mom had taken me to see a gynecologist because I hadn’t had a period in a year. Even before that, I was a “late bloomer” when I got it at 14 and managed, at best, to have a quarterly period.

I didn’t really mind since my periods were rather debilitating. Leg cramps, back cramps, abdominal cramps, nausea, diarrhea. It was not fun and I usually had it bad that I’d stay home from school with Pamprin and a heating pad. Once in awhile, I’d get a shot of whiskey because my people were very old school that way.

I was a very innocent 17 year old, and having a pelvic exam, even done by a woman, even when my mom was in the room, was rather horrifying. She had a mobile with butterflies above the exam table and that’s what I focused on. When my blood work came back, that’s when everything in my life changed.

My doctor was kind but told me I had a condition called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS. Simply put, but body produced too much estrogen and testosterone and not enough progesterone. I didn’t ovulate. Instead I formed scar tissue around what should have been erupting eggs. And she told me there was no cure and I likely wouldn’t be able to have children. I could treat the symptoms. I could take birth control pills to have a monthly cycle and I could take a medication that would slow additional hair growth.

At 17 I was looking forward to college, not kids, but still knowing that the option of motherhood might never be there for me was tough to take. I always dreamed about meeting my daughter. I felt a responsibility as the only child of the only boy in the family. I was always the kind of little girl that had played with dolls and thought about having a real life one of my own eventually. Suddenly, that wasn’t likely.

I was already very concerned with my appearance. I hadn’t been able to successfully lose weight since I was around age 9. This, also, was a symptom of PCOS. Go to Weight Watchers was the advice of the doctor. I had already been a veteran of Weight Watchers, Richard Simmons plans, hospital nutrition programs, crash diets in magazines, and an ulcer causing time with Slim Fast.

I realized that as well as having a mustache that I needed to bleach once a month; I had hair on my chin!  Like a mini beard! It came out of nowhere.  Now I really kept my head down in school.  I didn’t want anyone to look at me or see what I felt like I was becoming – disgusting.  When I’d ask my family about the things that bothered me about my appearance I seldom got reassurance that helped.  Either my mom said I’d grow out of it like she did (how did that help me now?) or someone would say they didn’t notice.  I didn’t believe any of it.  I hated what I saw in the mirror every day.

The knowledge of my condition made my mental state worse.  I just felt wrong and broken.  I had serious moments of rage where I’d attempt self-harm.  This could have been exacerbated by birth control pills we tried, and the fact that PCOS itself lends to depression biochemistry.  But I’d sit up at night, pulling my hair and slapping my face because I was angry and frustrated and I didn’t know who else to blame for feeling shitty.  My body betrayed me.  My body didn’t keep its contract with me.  I didn’t trust my body.  I didn’t love my body.  I didn’t love myself.  I was defective.

And speaking of birth control – there was nothing more embarrassing for me than going to Wal-Mart once a month with my mom to get a prescription.  At 17 I hadn’t even really held hands with a boy and was mostly scared to death of them.  And to think that I was on birth control like a slut?  Well, what did people think about me?   Every time I went with my mom to fill that prescription I felt judged.  And the irony of it all was funny at the time.  Birth control for someone who couldn’t give birth.  Birth control for a girl who felt absolutely undesirable.

The next couple years were a struggle with depression as I sorted out the issues in my head and my body.  I eventually found a birth control medication that gave me a monthly cycle without horrific side effects.  I took a medication that regulated my hair growth so it didn’t get significantly worse.  I managed the growth I had.  I still felt alienated from my sexuality.

Once I was out of college and on my own, I kept going with the same management of the condition.  Birth control and spironolactone to deal with the effects.  Try to lose some weight.  Antidepressants when necessary.  I never felt much like there was anything else to try until I met a doctor who had some additional ideas.  I went on an additional medication, Metformin, to deal with insulin sensitivity and to help with the weight loss.

This is about the time I learned something really interesting about PCOS and medicine.  Every practitioner had her own idea of how to treat it and what it was.  Some managed the symptoms and some wanted to do more underlying cause.  Some tried to give me a little hope and others didn’t really want to work with me at all.  I tried requesting an endocrinology referral at one point and was told that unless I was trying to get pregnant it wasn’t something the office was willing to do.  When my test results came back with some doctors they’d deny me medication that had previously worked because my ranges were still in “normal” for a woman, without the consideration of my age and my history.

It is incredibly frustrating to argue with a doctor about your life.

By far the kindest medical professional I met with in my 20s was a nurse at Planned Parenthood.  Without insurance, I turned to Planned Parenthood for the birth control.  I did not get dismissal. I did not get judgment.  I received compassion, understanding, and every script I asked for.

When I finally did become sexually active, I managed to tell my partners enough about this condition that they understood.  Most of the time they just cared that they didn’t have to worry about getting me pregnant.  The nagging reminder that I couldn’t have a child didn’t really bother me consciously again until I met someone that I did want to build a life with.  Suddenly I started to think about my daughter again and how she would look like a mixture of the two of us.  That she’s better get my nose!  But I hoped she would get his analytical mind. And then I’d remember that the little girl in my mind wouldn’t be in my arms.

By my mid 30s my friends were having their families.  My friends with infertility were dealing with it in proactive ways.  And I remained treading water.  Still on the Pill, we decided to not use other forms of birth control and if it happened, it happened.  My periods became ridiculously light, but my PMS was often crushing.  I have taken many pregnancy tests, alone, first thing in the morning, and I am always slightly disappointed by the result.  Even when it’s been the worst possible time in my life, any time I get a negative result it is never a relief that it is for some people.  It’s a reminder that I am still not a whole woman.

By my late 30s a few interesting things happened in my life.  I got off the Pill cycle accidentally because I couldn’t get things filled in time and found my weight loss really benefitted.  I started to do more with my nutrition to work with my IBS and I found that my absorption issues were likely hindering some of the medical things I was trying.  So I changed some things around and I decided to seek the care of a Naturopathic Doctor.

This decision was not something that was well received in my household!  I decided to go off the Pill and to try hitting PCOS closer to the source.  I’ve always thought of it more as a receptor binding problem.  Chemical messages being sent are not received.

The biggest game changer from my natural medicine experience was finding I was deficient in inositol – an important component of cellular transportation.  And by supplementing it intramuscularly, I have gone off the Pill and have a normal cycle.  It seems silly to some, but getting a period every month, every 28 days, with no placebo pills to tell me it’s around the corner seems like a freaking miracle.  I chart my cycle in an app on my phone with a smile.

I feel like Pinocchio.  I feel like a real girl.  I feel functional.  I feel like a woman.  I feel like I’m not broken.

As ecstatic as this makes me feel, it’s bittersweet.  I’m 40.  I’m married and we made peace to not have children a long time ago.  It’s not part of our plan.  It’s not equally and enthusiastically wanted by the two of us.  At the same time, my mother is helpfully reminding me that since she doesn’t have grandchildren, she feels like she has no one to pass things along to.  My thoughts are “I still failed because it’s too late.”

So I will take each day as it comes.  I will hold my friends’ children and I’ll focus on my own health.  I really don’t know what the future will bring.  Despite feeling like the sun is setting on my time to meet my daughter, I could be wrong.  And if I’m not, maybe someone younger and in a different situation will be sparked to stop treating PCOS like a sentence and a list of outcomes to manage.  Maybe she will try something crazy like seeing a Naturopathic Doctor for another way to deal with it.  And maybe she’ll meet her daughter.

Mistakes, I’ve Made a Few…

Do you ever find that your strengths can also be your weakness?

I’m still playing with the concept in my brain but I’ve made a realization. I’ve always been a little too obsessed with mistakes. My mistakes – figuring out where I went wrong and course correcting. Other people’s mistakes. Wow, am I good at pointing out mistakes other people make. (Sorry!)

I’m a great editor. You want any written piece checked for grammar, fonts, spacing, spelling, relative color of ink? I‘m your girl. Those “find the differences” puzzles – they are toast around me. I’ll tell you all the goofs in the movie. I could recognize when my Walkman battery was low and my cassette tapes were playing a little slow.

This is a skill that has served me SO well, but it’s also been a huge energy drain. Honestly, unless it’s your resume, or something really important – who freaking cares? It’s not as important as CREATING. And that’s really what I love to do. So why tear down when I can be building?

Maybe I’m always looking for mistakes because I always feel like I am wrong. If I can find a mistake in something else – maybe it isn’t me.

Okay, that’s a pretty big thought for a Monday night! Well, don’t worry, it actually was the result of spending from Friday night at 6 PM until last night at 8 PM in an intense personal development course. Being a Beachbody Coach pushes me out of my comfort zone. Well, I followed in the footsteps of a lot of the coaches on my team by doing this work and I’m turning a corner.

The Universe is always creating and destroying. Catabolism and Anabolism go together. Pointing out and searching for mistakes – it can be super important in the right situation, but it’s a form of destruction. It’s necessary sometimes but it’s also the easy way out of a lot of problems.

I’m choosing to be on the other end of the balance for awhile. I’m going to CONSTRUCT.

Let's build something awesome.

Let’s build something awesome.

I’m Glad I’m a Grown-Up: February’s Last Thought

I loved college.  I grabbed a hold of that experience, held on and wrung out every bit of fun that was possible for years – including summer sessions.  Even better than college was AFTER college.  After a year of living for the weekend (and going back to college) on a small island, I spent 5 years living in Maine’s largest city, being a bar district regular, and reigning as the Princess of Portland.

I physically moved on.  I ended up living in a couple large cities, and I’ve had a fun time in my 30s. I didn’t rip it up like the 20s, but it was pretty great. Sure, my alcohol tolerance isn’t what it was, my feet couldn’t take a whole night of dancing, and I called a cab instead of walking home.  My husband has told me, repeatedly, that I’m living in the past, too obsessed with college and my 20s.

I admit, I still keep in touch with friends I’ve had from those times.  We have more than enough #tbt dirt on each other.  Unfortunately we’ve also bonded over the loss of some of our mutual friends – taken from us much too young.  I go home usually once a year to see my parents.  My trips end up including visits with friends and my favorite places.  I like to watch what some people think of as “teen” shows.  But, honestly, either I watch because I like the actors playing the parents, or it’s about vampires.

Not bad.

Not bad.

It doesn’t hurt that I still can pass for being in my 20s.  I love getting carded.  I feel better than I did when I was in my 20s.  I’ve mastered dressing better and I’ve rehabbed the mistakes I made in over plucking my eyebrows.  I have some really awesome jewelry now including 3 wedding rings.

After a conversation on Twitter with a friend from college I came to the realization that without seeing it happen – I grew up. Despite my husband’s protests, my love of 90s music, and the fact that I get off the airplane in Portland and go straight to Margaritas – I’m a grown up and I’m okay with it.

I don’t miss the craziness and uncertainty of that time in my life.  I’m glad I no longer am drawn to drama.  I’m happy with who I am.  I like things about myself, even when I’m striving to improve them.  I have advice to offer women younger than me, because there is a lot of thing I wish I had know when I was in that spot.  I don’t envy the young anymore, I just want to see them have an awesome life and enjoy themselves as much as I do.

It doesn’t bother me that my doctor, hair stylist and boss are younger than me.  I don’t view age as a peg of authority anymore, I now see it as expertise and accomplishment – and we aren’t all going to have the same at any age.

I looked up to women my current age when I was in my 20s as surrogate big sisters and I hope others do the same with me now.  But I dreaded getting older and growing up even if it made me like those women.  I didn’t want to get boring!

I’m not boring.  I love my life and every experience I’ve had.  I’m looking forward to the ones I’m going to have.  I might end up with gray hairs and some wrinkles, but it’s going to be okay when it happens.

Digging out of the hole.

I’ve had a pretty rough couple of weeks.  I’ve mentally felt pretty damn terrible.  It isn’t the way I normally feel nowadays, so it was very strange.  But, it kicked me hard and it felt nearly impossible to get out of.

Climbershandholding

There are reasons for sure. I had a few arguments with my partner.  I was frustrated that the large goals I had set for myself and my business weren’t really working out.  I had no momentum going. I am in month 4 of being off the Pill. I had finished up 21 days of restrictive eating.  I wasn’t getting shit done, and I knew it. I had taken a long, harsh look at some things that are very important in my life and I entertained the thoughts that they may not be what I had thought they were.

I have dysthymia.  I was probably born with it.  I live with it everyday.  Basically, dysthymia is chronic depression.  My normal state is like Eeyore, I guess you could say. I cultivate a very careful positive bubble around myself to protect me.  Sometimes that bubble is a little Pollyannaish.  Sometimes that works, and some times it doesn’t.  Instead of denying, I let myself feel a little bit of the sting.  It sucked me down a little bit.

This is what I learned this time around: I was in a hole.  There actually is no getting out of the hole that is dysthymia.  I’m going to have to live with this for the rest of my life. I’m always going to climbing, I’ll probably never see the real top. The measures I take to dig out are important.  I will always have to be the one climbing.  I can use tools, like medication, therapy, positivity, environment to make things a little better.  But these won’t be solutions, just safety measures in case I start to fall.  I won’t fall as far.  I can have as many safety lines as possible, but I’ll always be doing the work.

So, this is also an apology for the people I picked fights with these last few weeks.  The people I ignored. The people I hid from. The people I obviously lied to when I said I was fine. The people I turned away from when I felt like the tears started to well up.  This is a thank you for the people who let me randomly text them and vent.  The friends that took my phone calls.  The people who dished out a serving of REAL.  Maybe the past few weeks happened because of dysthymia and circumstances, but in the end, it was the way I reacted to things that made them suck.  Understanding of the big picture is going to help me get better at dealing with these little drops.  They are going to happen.  Life happens.  Shit happens.  I just have to make sure I can still climb upward despite everything.

Friend Makin’ Mondays: Personal Quirks and Habits.

Happy Monday! I’ve got a lot going on this week and am getting ready for my friend Amanda to visit! So my self imposed dry lifestyle will likely END once she gets here. It’s okay, it was the goal I had set. It’s hard to build muscle and keep my nutrition in order when I am drinking.

This is me and Amanda last year during my summer trip to Maine.  It was so humid and hot! This was the last time we were together.  Soon to be reunited!

This is me and Amanda last year during my summer trip to Maine. It was so humid and hot! This was the last time we were together. Soon to be reunited!

I liked this set of questions because I do consider myself pretty quirky. A couple were tough! I hope you enjoy reading them. If you haven’t taken part in Friend Makin’ Mondays, here’s what you do. Copy the questions and answer them on your own blog. Then, link your post on All The Weigh so we can all read our answers.

Personal Quirks and Habits

1. Share one unique character trait that sets you apart from your friends. I remember EVERYTHING. And I’m constantly recalling old conversations, reminding my friends of the dumb stuff they did. No one can get away from their past with me around to retell it to you.

2. List at least two pet peeves that always aggravate you. I’m not the grammar police. But I AM the science patrol. When people call an intestinal virus “stomach flu”, it pretty much is like fingernails on a chalkboard. An entirely different pet peeve is heavy, thick lower eye liner. You just have to put a little pit to enhance the last line, ladies. We don’t live in ancient Egypt where we have to protect our eyes from the sun.

3. Is there a word or phrase that you say so regularly that people expect to hear it from you? I’m from Maine, so I drop wicked occasionally. My SoCal friends love that. For awhile “Oh dear” was a constant part of my vocabulary; to the point where I thought my husband was going to implode. I picked it up from a coworker.

4. Are you a risk taker, or do you typically play it safe? Maybe a little of both? I’m at heart, a rule follower and a goody two shoes. But when it comes to staying within those constraints, I’m pretty fearless. (Unless it’s heights or spiders.)

5. Describe your life as it was in high school. Are you the same person? Have you changed? Oh dear. (SEE?) I was the quiet girl, I had acquaintances, and a handful of friends. I was very good at school, but I struggled with going to class. I definitely think I suffered from depression for many, many years. I completely changes in college. I’m way more outgoing. I have many, many friends and it’s easy for me to relate to people. I’m more confident, I’m assertive, and I don’t stay in the corner anymore.

6. What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done that you’re glad you did? I quit my job, packed up my apartment of 5 years, and followed the guy I had been dating down to Atlanta, even though I didn’t have an engagement ring, or a job. It was the right decision. Being with him makes me a better version of myself, and we’re now married and equal partners in our lives. I needed to shake up my life at that point. My job was stagnant, my Master’s degree was at a permanent impasse, and my friends lives were going in different directions from mine.

7. Do you ever talk to yourself? If so, share an example. I talk to myself occasionally, I talk to my cat all the time. My Grammy always said it meant you had money in the bank. If I’m doing something dumb, or if I’m stressed, I’ll have a talk with myself in the mirror. I work out of my home a lot.

8. Share something you did that unexpectedly helped shape your life. I allowed myself to make some pretty bad decisions. Things I KNEW were wrong at the time, but I did them anyway. I was involved with 2 men in particular, one in college, one after college, who were definitely “bad boys.” They had values and behaviors contrary to my own and dating them pretty much made my parents absolutely furious. It was the rebellion that I needed to experience, after being the most well mannered kid. Both of them made me see a different point of view in life and challenged my own thoughts and ideals that I had. The break ups were devastating, but the lessons I learned made me grow in a way I never could without them.

9. Do you follow a strict routine, or are you a free spirit? Are you somewhere in between? I’m more of a free spirit, which drives my friends completely nuts. I try and schedule important things, but I think the best part of life is the experiences you have in between the things you think are important.

10. Share something about yourself that you hope will inspire others. I’m 36 years old. I have my fair share of issues about my body image, my self-esteem, boundaries, lots of stuff from childhood, etc. I did some intensive therapy once a week over a year ago. I came in pretty broken and left stronger that I could ever imagine. When you need help, ask for it. If you need to see someone to talk to, there is no shame. No one has a perfect life and everyone feels the way you feel sometimes. You need to take any and all necessary steps to make yourself feel better.